I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions any more. I’ve never been good at them. I do, however, choose “areas of focus” for my next year. The idea is called “3 Words for (insert year here)”. I borrowed this idea from Chris Brogan, who’s been doing it for 10 years now.
The concept is simple. Take a moment to think of three things you’d like to work on this year. Then come up with three words that remind you of those three things. Write them down. Look at them everyday and try to make your reality match those words. At least this is how I think of the process. Chris Brogan describes it a little more elegantly here.
I’ve only been doing this for a couple of years, but I really like the practice. The first year, I was not very successful at fulfilling those words. But last year I made progress. This year I’m hoping to make even more progress. So, without further ado…
My three words for 2016 are Brave, Writer, and Finish.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the pull, again, to do more.
It’s always followed, by being afraid, though. Every time I venture out of the little cubby hole that is my life and try new things, I feel afraid.
Who am I to try this? I haven’t been doing it long enough. I don’t know enough about it. I can’t possibly think I’d be any good at it.
These are the thoughts that run through my head.
It doesn’t happen right away, though. Oh no, it waits until I’m in the middle of a project. It waits until I’ve become firmly entrenched in the thing I want to do. Until, I’m actually getting excited about it.
Steven Pressfield calls this resistance in his book “The War of Art”. I call it the naysayer. It’s that kid on the playground who always thinks your idea of a game is stupid. It’s the person who tells you how hard something is going to be when you declare that you want to do something new with your life. It’s all the crabs who pull the one crab (desperately reaching for freedom) back into the bucket.
And the real ugly truth is, that it doesn’t have to be that way.
I love my son. I know, I’m a Mother, I have to say that. But it’s true. I love him, but not just because he came from me or that he’s changed my life (literally and figuratively). I love him, because he is fearless. He’s not afraid to be himself.
Actually, that’s not true. It’s not that he’s not afraid. He doesn’t even know that he can be afraid (or ashamed) of who he is. He hasn’t learned that yet. And I hope he never learns it. But I have a feeling that he will. In fact, he’s recently learned that some other kids think he’s “weird”, and that they have this incessant need to mock him for it.
It’s sad, because being weird and unique is one of the greatest things about living this life.
But for now, he’s still at that point in his life where he’s oblivious. It’s a glorious thing to behold.
I remember being like that once. Freer, happier, and completely oblivious to anything but my own joy. The joy of living.
There’s this really great quote that Eddard Stark tells his son Bran in “A Game of Thrones” about being brave. Bran asks, “can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” His father answers, “That is the only time a man can be brave”.
And it’s true. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t feel like you need to brave your way through something without being scared. It’s impossible.
So, Brave is one of the words I choose.
Some of the best times in my life happened when I was being brave. Finishing writing my first story, when I was in 7th grade, and then telling everyone about it. Telling my husband (my then boyfriend) that I loved him for the first time. Getting married. Giving birth to my son. Climbing the rock wall in high school for the first time, even though I was afraid of heights. Doing my first debate. Acting in my first play. Singing on stage for the first time in 5th grade. Giving my first presentation on social media. Winning my first consulting client. Giving my first social media workshop. Leaving my job of three years to take a job with a place that really wanted me. Declaring that I was going to freelance full-time when I was laid off from that job. Joining BNI to bring in more clients to my fledgling business. Taking a job full-time with the business that was helping me get most of my work. Visiting a location of a client in Urbandale, Iowa to do a “Marketing Walkthrough” of their store. Starting my own blog. Moving to California from Missouri (which I had lived in for pretty much my whole life) in less than 2 weeks. Sitting at the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking over the edge (and I’m still afraid of heights). Every single time I have to get up in front of people and talk about something (especially if I’m the “so-called” expert). Every time I send a newsletter to my list. Every time I publish a blog post. I’m scared writing this now, because it’s deeply revealing. I’ll be scared in a couple of weeks when I take my first beginner salsa class. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being scared.
But that’s kind of the point. You’re not going to stop being scared. Life is scary, especially when it’s new and untamed.
Each of those times, I was able to walk through the fear and get through the other side. I still don’t exactly understand why I was able to. In some instances I can point to the fact that I “had to do it”, but in others, I just did. Maybe by trying to be more brave I will learn what gets me through, and I’ll be able to replicate it more.
Last year, I found that just looking at the words everyday to remind myself was not enough. I had to tie specific actions to those words, or nothing was going to be done.
Brave is hard to tie an action to. Sure, it can be an action word. But how the heck do you define brave as an action?
Even since I started writing this post, I’ve felt more aware of when I’m not being brave, and that’s a good thing. It’s given me some ideas on how I can take brave from just a word to something I can actually implement.
The first part of that is to try more stuff. Signing up for my first beginner salsa class is a great example of trying something new. I also have my eye on some writer’s meetups, which I’ll try to schedule in during the next couple of months.
The second way for me to be brave is to finish more things that I start. I’ll talk more about this later with my third word.
This is one of the things that I’ve always wanted to do with my life. In fact, it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do longest. Despite all my false starts and stops, I know it’s a thing I want to continue to do. So, why should I stop hiding it?
Again, though, you can’t have results without action. So, i’m tieing this word to a daily goal. I’m going to pledge to write at least 250 words a day of fiction. I just did the math, and a 90,000 word book will take me just under a year to write at 250 words per day.
On the other side of the coin, I also love to write blog posts, especially when they teach something. So, “writer”, is also to remind myself to do that as much as possible. I have another action for this. It is to finish 52 blog posts this year. I used to scoff at any goal I tried to set where I would publish 1 blog post per week. My mind would immediately counter with “that’s not nearly enough”, and then I would decide to do 2 per week. The problem with this goal was that I wrote even less because of it. Just the thought of writing a ton more than I was already outputting seemed to cripple me. So, I’m sticking with a more realistic goal this year.
Hi, my name is Cassie, and I’m a chronic “starter”. I rarely finish things. Even small projects like cleaning up my desk tend to get derailed. I know part of the problem is being in the middle of a project, and suddenly, finding myself scared to finish (for whatever reason). However, I also tend to get distracted by new ideas a lot. This has caused me to start a lot more projects than I could ever hope to finish.
So, the question that I will endeavor to ask myself the next time something shiny comes along is, “will I finish this?” I have to try to answer this in the most brutally honest way possible. Because my track record speaks for itself.
Again, though, I have finished things in the past. But just like the word “Brave”, I don’t understand why some things got finished and others didn’t. This year will be just as much about learning what motivates me to finish as it does actually finishing things.
I’m going to also start documenting those projects which I do start, so that I can see what gets finished and what doesn’t. I’ve learned from running social media campaigns that if you need to have the data to back up whatever you are declaring as true. You can’t fake data. You can misinterpret it, or it can be skewed, but pure data only gives you numbers. Numbers just are.
Finish is also a reminder that I already have projects or irons in the fire that either need to be finished, redefined as something other than a project, or dropped completely. One of the most important things i’ve learned in the last couple of years is that it’s okay to not finish something. In fact, not finishing a project has taught me more about myself than anything else.
I’m still going to shoot for finishing more projects than not, but sometimes a project just isn’t meant to be finished.
How am I going to put finish into action? I’ve thought about this a lot, because starting and not finishing things is a major problem I want to overcome this year. It took me a while to hit on a plan that I think will work. I won’t know, though, until I work the system.
Here’s my plan. I have a list of the current projects that I am working on and want to work on in the next month. This is sort-of a high-level to do list, or a goals list. Then I have a second list. I call it my “queue”. These are all the things that I want to accomplish after my current projects are done. Everything that comes into my head, will need to go on the queue list until there’s room for it to move to the current projects list. I will schedule time to work on the things on my current projects list, and try to resist the urge to work on anything that is not on my current list. At the end of the month, I’ll assess my current list and see if there’s room to move anything from my queue. This will also be a good time to see how much progress I’ve made on a project. It’s not a perfect system, but I think it will work well.
So those are my 3 words for 2016, the reasons why I’m choosing them, and the plans I have in place to actually work on them.
How about you? Do you set New Year’s Resolutions, or do you focus on areas you want to improve? Would you like to join me in the 3 words for 2016? Drop me a line in the comments and let me know your plans.
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